Dubai is proving more attractive than ever to travelers from around the world.
From January to June 2014, the emirate’s hotels welcomed more than 5.8 million guests, making it the busiest opening six months to a year on record.
Growth has been recorded across a number of key indicators, including hotel and apartment revenues, food and beverage revenues, and average length of stay.
The wide-ranging appeal of the destination is underlined by the diversity of its key tourism source markets. Arab countries like Iran, Oman, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia are major providers of visitors to Dubai, but so are the U.K., the U.S., Russia, China, India, and Germany.
This represents an exciting challenge for tourism professionals working in Dubai, particularly those involved in marketing and PR: how to promote the destination to such a broad range of nationalities, while maintaining its appeal for key demographics like the family market?
Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), which provided the figures for the first half of the year, wants to make Dubai “the must-experience family destination”.
DTCM director-general Helal Saeed Almarri said: “We are constantly diversifying our tourism offering and increasing our hotel portfolio to attract, and cater to, a broader market of visitors.”
What does the future hold?
Dubai’s tourism industry will see continued growth in the years to come, in terms of the number of travelers visiting the destination, and people working there in tourism-related jobs.
Significant contributions will come from various sectors, with aviation expected to support nearly 1.2 million jobs by 2030, injecting over USD88 billion into the economy.
Collectively, aviation and tourism-related activities will make up 38 percent of Dubai’s economy, and contribute approximately USD53.1 billion by 2020, according to the British think tank Oxford Economics.
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Another sector that is seeing exciting growth in the region is cruise travel. During the season from October 2014 to June 2015, the port of Mina Rashid is set to welcome 381,000 passengers, 19 percent more than in the 2013-14 season.
Dubai Cruise Tourism, part of the DTCM, is also anticipating 110 cruise ship calls. Six vessels will be using the local cruise terminal as their home port.
Jyoti Panchmatia, general manager for the Gulf region at destination management firm Travco, said: “The industry is growing. We see ships becoming fuller. More cruise lines are using Dubai for hub operations. [It is] an ideal winter deployment destination.”
The fact that Dubai tourism has seen such rapid and substantial expansion does not mean the industry, and professionals working within it, have no challenges to overcome.
One of the key priorities for the sector will be to maintain the growth achieved in the past few years. While the destination attracted a record number of tourists in the first half of 2014, the rate of increase was significantly lower than in previous years.
Another challenge is delivering the capacity to accommodate the increasing number of people visiting Dubai.
It has been forecast that the destination will need to build up to 283 new hotels to meet its target of welcoming 20 million annual visitors by 2020. Considering that the emirate has delivered an average of 14 hotels per year over the last eight years, this is likely to be a difficult task, according to Deloitte.
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Top employers in Dubai
Dubai’s huge potential and ambition means the destination holds great appeal for tourism professionals.
If you have career aspirations in the industry, you will be encouraged by the fact that in the Great Place to Work Institute’s list of the top 15 U.A.E. employers this year, three were tourism-related – the hotel groups Marriott and Hyatt, and the play center chain Fun City.
We could see more tourism businesses added to this list in the near future, with Dubai set to open some high-profile attractions in the next few years. One of the biggest developments will be the opening of the first phase of the Dubai Parks and Resorts project, scheduled for October 2016.
The nature of working in Dubai
Dubai is a hotspot for international workers, so foreigners living and working in the emirate will find they are in good company.
Regardless of your nationality, you will also find that Dubai is a land of great opportunity. The ambition and appetite for growth that allowed the destination to reach its current position means there is no shortage of prospects for driven professionals.
On the financial side, many internationals are drawn to Dubai by the promise of tax-free earnings, but it is important to bear in mind that housing, education, and everyday essentials can be expensive.
When it comes to moving your career forward in a young city like Dubai, where trust and relationships matter as much as reputation, building a strong professional network is vital. If you’re studying for an MBA in Dubai, or completing your business education there, make the most of every networking opportunity that comes your way.
To get a personal perspective on working in the destination, particularly for foreigners, online jobs board Jobsite spoke to Damian Brown, regional director of executive search firm Veredus in the Middle East and Africa.
Mr. Brown, who lives in Dubai with his young family, said the emirate is a “great place” to raise children.
However, he identified career advancement as the number one reason to move to the region, pointing out that the Gulf is “a place with money to spend on innovation”.
A large portion of this innovation is likely to be seen in tourism, so industry professionals who want to take their career to the next level could find that Dubai is the perfect place to do so.
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The UAE travel and tourism sector is expected to create 245,000 jobs directly by 2023, registering an annual growth rate of 4.1 per cent, according to the latest research analysis released by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The analysis also found that capital investment in the sector is expected to rise annually by an average of 4.5 per cent, to reach Dh143.4 billion in 2023. This would increase travel and tourism’s share of the UAE’s total private investments to about 23.2 per cent, up from 22.8 per cent in 2013.
The UAE is ranked the 28th among 139 countries and 1st in the Middle East in the World Economic Forum’s "Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013". Dubai plays a lead role, holding a 66 per cent share of the UAE’s tourism economy, with Abu Dhabi having 16 per cent, and Sharjah 10 per cent.
Dubai tourism and travel industry
The restaurants and hotels sector was the highest growing sector in Dubai’s economy, registering 16.9 per cent annual growth rate. The sector also witnessed an increasing percentage share reaching about 4.5 per cent in 2012, compared to 3.4 per cent in 2008.
In 2012, Dubai transport and communication sector had 14 per cent share in Dubai GDP rising from 12 per cent in 2008. The sector also witnessed relatively robust annual GDP growth rate of about 7.3 per cent up from -0.9 per cent in 2008. However, part of the transport and telecommunication sector value added can be related to the tourism sector.
Meanwhile, the total number of hotels in Dubai reached 406 hotels in June 2013, registering an annual growth rate of about 4 per cent compared to the same month in 2012, based on data from Dubai Statistics Centre.
Based on the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), in 2012 the estimated total value added generated by the UAE travel and tourism sector either directly or indirectly, reached about Dh193.6 billion compared to Dh176 billion in 2011, approximately accounting for 14.3 per cent share of GDP.
The UAE travel and tourism sector value added percentage share is expected to reach about 16.4 per cent of total GDP and to register an average annual growth rate of 5 per cent, to reach Dh325.4 billion by 2023.
Based on the same study, the UAE travel and tourism sector GDP in 2011 was larger than that of the education, automotive manufacturing, and chemicals manufacturing sectors. In terms of its direct GDP, travel and tourism is slightly smaller than the size of the financial services sector in the UAE.
In 2012, the estimated total contribution of UAE travel and tourism to employment was 383,500 jobs, representing 11.3 per cent of total employment, as compared to 363,100 jobs in 2011. This is forecast to increase by 2.6 per cent in 2013 to 393,500 jobs.
Over the next 10 years, the sector is expected to create 245,000 jobs directly by 2023 registering average annual growth rate of about 4.1 per cent. This includes employment by hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation services; it also includes the activities of the restaurant and leisure industries directly supported by tourists.
Benchmarking tourism and travel sector to other sectors employment, it is found that the sector directly employs more people than the auto manufacturing, financial services, communications, mining and chemical manufacturing sectors.
UAE travel and tourism sector is estimated to have attracted capital investment of about Dh82.8 billion in 2012. This value is expected to rise by 11.7 per cent in 2013 and to grow annually on average by 4.5 per cent over the next 10 years to reach Dh143.4 billion in 2023. Travel and Tourism’s share in the UAE’s total private investment is projected to rise from 22.8 per cent in 2013 to about 23.2 per cent in 2023.
Another important direct contribution of travel and tourism sector to the economy is tourism expenditure. According to WTTC estimates, by 2023 international tourist arrivals are forecast to total 25.8 million generating expenditure of Dh207.1 billion, an increase of 5 per cent per year.
The UAE has identified tourism as one of the non-traditional products for export with high value that is aligned well with the country’s diversification strategy away from hydrocarbon sector. The main challenge is to achieve sustained growth which will entail developing new approaches to tourism market.
The biggest economic transformation that the UAE and Dubai are witnessing with the expanding tourism activity will lead to increased consumers spending and necessitates investment booms in the buildings and infrastructure that is needed to be carried out with great efficiency to ensure lucrative returns while maintaining competitiveness.